It’s always tricky to introduce a new character into an already well-established programme as viewers often compare the new actor to his predecessor. I guarantee that that will happen tonight on New Tricks when Nicholas Lyndhurst joins the team as Dan Griffin, the replacement for Alun Armstrong’s Brian Lane. Judging from the comments left under my New Tricks review from last week, the majority of you are already that Brian and wife Esther have left the show. However, in my opinion, Lyndhurst makes a good showing of himself in this episode, even if he doesn’t quite manage to fill Brian’s shoes completely.
Dan is supposed to join the team in Soho, the starting point for this week’s case however a miscommunication means he misses the initial briefing. The case that has been reopened is that of ‘Gentlemen’ Jim Hockney, a director and occasional star of pornographic films. Jim, who later got out of the porn game and into fruit machines, was supposedly murdered by his mistress – jazz singer Angela Gold. But Angela always protested her guilt and was found not guilty in her trial, though she never worked as a musician again. The case has been re-opened due to the fact that Jim’s daughter Sara discovered that he wasn’t her real father and now believes that her mother killed Jim. The mother in question is porn star Jane Harlow and as the team study her most famous film, Dan arrives and is a little perturbed to see his new colleagues watching a saucy movie. While Jane struggles to remember the names of Sara’s potential father, the group try to find Angela Gold. They find her former manager who described her as temperamental, as well as her former pianist who talks about how he was the only who felt Angela was innocent. Eventually Dan traces Angela, now going by her real name Ann, using the musician’s union. The team find that she is now teaching piano for a living and still feels that she was wrongly tried for the crime. The main piece of evidence, a letter informing Jim that she no longer loved him, put her in his flat but she claims that she posted it and went back to her flat. As Angela took more pills than she should’ve done, it almost looked as if she’d tried to commit suicide but she claims this isn’t the case.
Meanwhile, the team interview Jim’s brother Colin who claims that Jane is lying about the string of lovers she had as she was committed to Jim. They also discover that Colin sold Jim’s company after his death to Greenbow, the conglomerate belonging to Gavin Reason, known as Mad Gav to the UCOS team. It transpires that Gav and Jim had a rivalry that started when the latter questioned the size of the former’s manhood. There are further revelations later on which relate to Jane and Jim’s marriage and the part that Gavin played in it. A new suspect is also revealed in Letitia Hope, whose DNA is found on Angela’s letter, however she is someone who doesn’t trust the police. Though she tells them she’d never had any run-ins with Jim, they later discover that she starred in one of his films. However, the UCOS bunch discover that the feud between Gav and Jim may not have anything to do with the murder. Instead it seems that Angela may have more to do with the murder than she thinks, even if it wasn’t her who struck the fatal blow.
Alongside the main crime story we find out more about Dan, a man who instantly raises Gerry’s suspicion due his time on the murder squad. Dan is a fairly cocky character who often employs sarcasm while interviewing potential suspects. While he isn’t presented as brilliant in the same way Brian was, Dan comes across as someone who doesn’t let his emotion get in the way of a case. The fact that Dan is younger and healthier, we learn that he likes to swim on a daily basis, raises Gerry’s ire further and the two almost come to blows. Dan doesn’t exactly ingratiate himself to the team when he reveals his contract stipulates that he work a strictly nine till five day. The reason for this is that he has to care for his disabled daughter Holly, whose love of jazz helps him in tracking down Angela. However there seems to be another reason for him joining the UCOS team that is yet to be revealed.
Anybody expecting to see Rodney Trotter join the New Tricks gang is in for a shock as Lyndhurst pitches his performance as far away from Peckham as possible. In fact I was shocked at how well Lyndhurst played this slightly odd character who had made a commitment to care for his daughter. Though Lyndhurst has done dramatic roles in the past, I feel that his role as Dan Griffin could usher in a new chapter of his career. Though he can’t hope to match the performance that Alun Armstrong has given thus far in the series, I feel that Lyndhurst is a strong addition to the ever-changing UCOS team. On the other end of the spectrum we have Dennis Waterman, whose performance tonight left a lot to be desired. I didn’t find Waterman particularly convincing in portraying Gerry’s hatred of Dan and I just don’t think he tries any more. Away from Lyndhurst, the best turns came from the supporting actors namely Tracie Bennett who was fantastic as wronged jazz singer Angela Gold.
I found the central investigation story to be fairly well-paced this episode, even if the majority of the characters felt a little clichéd. Roy Mitchell’s script seemed to bemoan the loss of a seedy Soho and longed for the days in which the area wasn’t as sanitised as it is now. Though I found the revelation of the murderer to be fairly predictable, it was still an enjoyable story thanks to the comedy elements provided by the nature of Jim and Jane’s profession. Mitchell has also succeeded in making Dan another likeable oddball who may rub his colleagues up the wrong way but at the same time has a lot of heart. Though I do still miss Brian, I feel that Dan was the right way to go with a character namely someone younger who was still socially awkward but in his own unique way.
Overall I found there was much to like about this episode of New Tricks thanks mainly to the introduction of Dan Griffin and the performance from Nicholas Lyndhurst. Though the story was somewhat predictable and Waterman’s performance continues to be poor, this was still an entertaining hour of television. I now feel it’ll be interesting to see how well Dan fits in with his colleagues over the coming weeks and how Sandra’s upcoming departure will affect the group.
What did you think to tonight’s episode of New Tricks? Did you enjoy Nicholas Lyndhurst’s performance?
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